In the case of a US Airways flight attendant who was injured in a slip-and-fall aboard an airport shuttle bus, the Supreme Court has agreed to consider when an employee traveling between a parking lot and their workspace is in the course and scope of their employment.
In US Airways v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bockelman), a three-judge panel consisting of Commonwealth Court Judges P. Kevin Brobson, Michael H. Wojcik and J. Wesley Oler Jr. rejected US Airways’ argument that because the airline did not own the shuttle bus and flight attendant Betty Bockelman was injured outside of her shift hours, she wasn’t in the scope of her employment at the time.
According to Brobson’s opinion, Bockelman drove to the Philadelphia International Airport every day for work and parked in the employee lot. She would then board a shuttle bus to the terminal and take one at the end of the day to return to the parking lot.
On Jan. 23, 2015, she slipped in a puddle of water in the bus and fell while trying to put her luggage on an overhead rack. She crushed her left foot. She filed a workers’ compensation claim and the judge ruled in her favor, holding that the injury occurred on the employer’s premises, Bockelman’s presence on the shuttle bus was required by the nature of her employment, and her injury was caused by the condition of the premises.
US Airways argued that it did not own the parking lot or the bus, so the injury did not occur on its premises. It also contested that Bockelman was required to use the bus, claiming US Airways never ordered employees to use any specific mode of transportation to get to work.
However, Brobson said that US Airways knew employees relied on the buses to get to work from the parking lot.
“As part of doing business with the airport, employer understood that the airport would transport employer’s employees who drove to work. Thus, employer also understood that, in order to arrive at their work area to start their shift, employees who drive to work invariably board the shuttle bus after their commute to the airport,” Brobson said.
“Similarly,” he continued, “employer also understood that, in order to leave their work area at the end of their shift, employees who drive to work invariably board the shuttle bus to return to their vehicle. Accordingly, the shuttle bus is such an integral part of employer’s business as to be part of the premises, in addition to being a customary means of ingress and egress, and the [workers' compensation judge] correctly concluded as such.”
The justices granted allocatur in the case Oct. 3 agreeing to consider a single question: “Is the Commonwealth Court’s order contrary to long-standing case law from the Commonwealth Court holding that an employee is not in the course and scope of employment while traveling between a parking lot and the workplace unless the employer mandates how an employee commutes to work and/or where the employee must park his/her vehicle?”
Kimberly A. Zabroski of Littler Mendelson in Pittsburgh represents US Airways and could not be reached for comment.
Alfred J. Carlson III of Martin Law in Philadelphia represents Bockelman and called it “an honor and a privilege” to have the Supreme Court hear the case.
He added that he and his client are “optimistic the Supreme Court will affirm the lower courts.”